On Aug. 14, Frontal21, the flagship news show of German public broadcasting company ZDF ran a segment on Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. employees who have fallen victim to a variety of blood disorders, and the inaction of the world’s largest electronics maker.
The six-minute segment includes interviews of a SHARPS organizer, Samsung blood-disorder victims, their families and a Samsung executive.
In the interview, Kong Jeong-ok, the medical doctor with SHARPS, said of the Samsung victims: “They do not want money. They want justice.”
Han Hye-kyoung, a former Samsung worker, now partially paralyzed and verbally impaired after brain tumors, stammered through her testimony of how she was continually exposed to chemicals while working at Samsung.
In 2011, Samsung commissioned Environ International, the U.S. environmental and workplace safety consultancy that frequently represents the tobacco industry, to conduct a study of workplace exposure control measures. Without disclosing the data it used in the study, the consultancy concluded that there is non-causality between blood-disorder clusters at Samsung and its working conditions.
Samsung’s denial of the existence of cancer clusters at its semiconductor and LCD factories continues unabated.
When asked by Frontal21 whether Samsung could influence or deceive Environ, Kim Soo-geun, director of Samsung Health Research Institute, the electronics maker’s safety research arm, answered, “I cannot speak any foreign languages. You have to speak really good English to be able to understand American scientists and to influence them.”
Kim’s petulance is typical of Samsung in handling labor and CSR issues.
The following is the English translation of a Web summary of the Frontal21 report [all brackets and Web links are added]:
Dying After Working At Samsung
South Korea’s Conglomerate Refuses to Take Responsibility
Samsung Group of South Korea is facing serious allegations: its former employees have died after growing ill while working at Samsung. The causes of their deaths are due to carcinogenic chemicals, to which the victims became exposed while employed at Samsung factories.
The accusations are leveled by SHARPS, the advocacy group for the victims. The lack of safety meant that some 150 former employees, most of them at a young age, were affected by leukemia, lymphoma or multiple sclerosis. And 56 died prematurely. According to SHARPS, many of them were employed at semiconductor factories and others at LCD labs. For many years, the victims and their bereaved families have been calling on Samsung to admit that the sicknesses were work-related.
In an interview with Frontal21, Kim Soo-Geun, director of Samsung Health Research Institute, denies any such connections. He said, “Carcinogens such as benzene are unlikely to be a part of [semiconductor] production.” His remarks contradicted the findings of an independent study by Seoul National University scientists. “Benzene was detected at Samsung. What is also missing [at Samsung] is professional management, which would have enabled Samsung to measure chemicals used in the supply chain,” said [Seoul National University] professor Park Do-myung in an interview with Frontal21.
Samsung Does Not Want To Know
Last year, the Seoul administrative court ruled in favor of [a request for workers compensation by] the father of Hwang Yumi, a Samsung worker who died at the age of 21 of leukemia. “She became sick because she was exposed to various toxic chemical while on her job,” the court said. However, Samsung does not want to know [about it]. “Cancer is a frequent disease, with or without specific triggers,” said director Kim in the interview. Why [should] I believe this cancer could not be avoided?”
In 2011, Samsung Group posted 16 billion euros in earnings. Even in Germany, telephones, TVs and other electronic devices from Samsung are very popular. According to industrial surveys, Samsung smartphones are now more popular than Apple’s iPhone. Almost 25 percent of smartphone users have Samsung smartphones.